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May 13, 2021

Shahbaz’s release, permission to travel abroad annoy PM: sources

ISLAMABAD: The release of PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif on bail followed by Lahore High Court’s decision allowing him to travel abroad has annoyed the prime minister and confrontation between the government and opposition, particularly the PML-N is likely to step up after Eid. Sources said the PM was aware of certain developments in Shahbaz’s pre- and post-bail application. They said the PM expressed his displeasure in some of his meetings when he learnt during his visit of Saudi Arabia that the court had permitted Shahbaz to travel abroad Sources said the PM communicated his anger to the concerned and the FIA somehow blocked his travel the same night.

During his telephonic interaction with certain people within the power structure on Tuesday, the PM amply expressed his frustration over the way travel permission was granted to Shahbaz, saying: “Shahbaz tried to escape from Pakistan.”

The government has already worked out its plans A and B for Shahbaz before as well as after the Eid to ensure he is back in the prison. His name would certainly be placed on the Exit Control List.

One of the PM’s aides told this correspondent that the tension between the government and those allegedly behind the move could rise if Shahbaz manages to go abroad despite all hindrance.

A few months back the PM clearly instructed the concerned that Maryam Nawaz should not be allowed to leave abroad.

Since his release on bail, Shahbaz has started his political activities, holding meetings not only with some foreign diplomats, but also some important people in Islamabad.

He also intends to fence party differences with former President Asif Ali Zardari. He is also not expected to oppose unconditional re-entry of the PPP and the ANP into the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).

Given PM’s hints at possible relief to his old buddy and party leader Jehangir Tareen before the budget announcement in June, the PM’s resolve to block Shahbaz’s travel abroad would further escalate the political tension.

Apparently, the cabinet decision to re-open Hudaibiya case has political reasons rather than the claim of fresh evidences, and the target is obviously Shahbaz who is also leader of the opposition in the National Assembly.

On the opposition front, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman has convened party’s central shoora meeting for May 22 and 23 to take important decisions in the wake of recent political developments and meeting of party heads of the PDM which for all practical purposes is going nowhere at the moment.

Though it is hard for the PDM to go for long march or resignations en bloc, efforts are under way to evolve a strategy to ensure that the federal and Punjab budgets do not get through the assemblies.

However, much depends on the relief to PTI’s Tareen group of around 40 MNAs and MPAs. His group now holds the balance, and the PM is left with little option but to give some ‘relief’ to him if he really wants his government to survive.

JKT on his part has not taken any extreme stand against the government, but has not abandoned his group either. According to one of the members of the JKT group: “We will wait for the outcome of Barrister Zafar Ali’s report and its implementation.”

Therefore, while the Covid-19 pandemic politics refuses to die in Pakistan, we may see the government and the opposition in action with National Assembly session on May 17 which may see the government placing the presidential ordinance regarding electronic voting machines and the voting right to the dual nationality holders.

(The writer is a senior columnist and analyst of GEO, The News and Jang.

Twitter:@MazharAbbasGEO)